Exchange your power plays for love
James Brown nailed it when he sang: “It’s a man’s man’s man’s world.” In fact, there are only a few areas of our world where males do not dominate. Examples would be teaching, nursing and administrative work.
This isn’t much different than it was 60 years ago. To illustrate how this is a man’s world, consider these statistics: 100 percent of CEOs on Wall Street are … men; 97 percent of heads of venture capital firms are … men; 95 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are ... men. The list goes on.
It wasn’t always that way. In the beginning God created humankind in his image, “male and female he created them.” They had a job: “They will rule…” Notice the ruling was to be done together, as equals, over the creation. Problem is, that did not last long. In Genesis 3 we find a serpent slithering his way into the story. The forbidden fruit was eaten. And consequences came.
To the woman God said, “Your desire will be for your husband …” The “desire” spoken of here is not a sexual desire or a passion for the husband. God looks favorably upon that. It is a “dominating” desire, the kind of desire spoken of a chapter later when sin’s “desire” is for Cain. Sin wanted to overtake him and dominate him. It’s the idea that the woman will want to dominate her husband. That’s not a good thing. It’s not the way it was supposed to be.
Another result is that the husband “… will rule over you.” This “rule” is not a caring, loving leadership that places her needs above his. It is just the opposite. It too is a dominating role that looks to his own self first. He will love his life more than his wife. That’s not a good thing. It’s not the way it was supposed to be.
But that’s how things were then when Genesis was written. And that’s how things were in Colossae when Paul wrote to the church. The Greco-Roman world was no different. It was a man’s world in which men ruled. Wives—often young teens—had a primary duty to give the husband legitimate children. There were mistresses and concubines for other needs. Wives basically existed to please the men around them and husbands could do with their wives as they wished.
Such was the situation the church in Colossae found themselves in. How were they to live in this “man’s world” while learning to live in God’s world? Paul is aware of the tension.
He tells wives: “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
It’s unlikely that Paul wants the wives to live in the same way they had in the past since he has already told them not to conform their lives to the present world. And it certainly should not be used to justify power and status used against women, as it sometimes has been used.
The word “submit” is middle-passive which means he is telling them to “choose to order” themselves toward their husbands. Her grounding is “in the Lord.” It is not a grounding in some authority the husband has over her.
And they will have no problem doing so when husbands follow Paul’s instruction to “… love your wives and don’t be bitter toward them.” If Paul were wanting the women to get in line with male authority or his role as a leader, the complimentary command to the husband would be about his leadership. Male leadership and power were assumed in that culture. But Paul talks about “love.” He is to love her, not lead her.
Passages such as this have been used to support the man’s world. But in Paul’s writing he supports not a patriarchal form in the home or an inferiority-superiority status or some hierarchy. Instead Paul focuses on a Christ-Formed home. In this kind of home, the husband loves his wife as Jesus loved the church. And how did Jesus love the church? He died for the church. Husbands are called upon to learn to love in this way.
How different would our homes look if each person understood their roles as “in the Lord” or to “love” or in view of what “pleases the Lord?”
Our words would be kinder. Our actions softer. We’d listen quickly and answer slowly. Whoever thinks they have power because of their size or volume of voice would realize they cannot set the rules according to their own whims. In fact, whoever has any power will use that power for the benefit of others in the household.
When we do that, others may come to realize that it is not really a man’s world after all. It is Christ’s world. In it no one tries to dominate each other. There are no power plays. All are equal. There is neither male or female, slave or free. It is a world moving back toward God’s intention: A world dominated by love.